LODGING A COMPLAINT:
A CONSUMERâ€™S GUIDE
Dealing with Consumer Problems When consumers encounter problems with the products or services purchased, they need to be aware about their legal rights and whether they are entitled to claim a free remedy from the seller or service provider. This should be done before complaining to the trader to avoid situations where consumers either make unreasonable claims or end up getting less. For assistance and guidance about their rights, consumers can contact the Office for Consumer Affairs via the Contact Us form on https://mccaa.org.mt/, by phone on 8007 4400 or by sending a message on MCCAAâ€™s Facebook page.
Be Prepared Before complaining with the trader, consumers should gather all documents related to the purchase. The most important document is the proof of purchase as it provides evidence of the purchase and is required upon submitting a claim for a remedy or compensation. Other important documents include the commercial guarantee and sales contract. To make an effective complaint, consumers should be prepared to explain to the seller what the problem is and the kind of solution they expect.
Complain to the Trader Traders must be notified immediately about the problem. A delay in complaining may diminish consumersâ€™ legal rights. When complaining, consumers should be assertive, but should avoid aggressive behaviour as this tends to complicate the problem. Traders should be given reasonable time to verify the problem and offer an acceptable remedy, this without causing a significant inconvenience to consumers.
Complain in Writing In instances where after speaking to the trader the problem remains unresolved, consumers are advised to submit a complaint in writing. There is a legal obligation on consumers to inform the seller in writing about the lack of conformity within two months of detecting the problem. The written complaint is best sent by registered post and should include details of the product purchased, a description of the problem and the solution the consumer is expecting. If within a week from sending the written complaint, consumers do not get a reply or are not offered an acceptable remedy, their next step would be to register a complaint with the Office for Consumer Affairs.
How to Lodge a Complaint Consumers can register a complaint by: •
Visiting the MCCAA office at ‘Mizzi House’, National Road, Blata l-Bajda or the Valletta office at 47A, South Street. Gozitan consumers can visit the MCCAA office in Xewkija at St. Elizabeth Street. Writing a letter to the Director, Complaints and Conciliation Directorate, MCCAA, Mizzi House, National Road, Blata l-Bajda, HMR 9010. Through the online form – https://mccaa.org.mt/home/complaint or the mobile app ‘Konsumatur’.
Complaint Evaluation and Conciliation Process Registered complaints are evaluated and then assigned to a complaint handler to carry out conciliation. The complaint handler may request further information or documentation from the consumer.
The main objective of conciliation is to reach an amicable agreement between consumers and sellers. The complaint handler’s role is limited to conciliation and its outcome often depends on the good will of the parties involved.
During conciliation, the complaint handler communicates with the trader about the complaint.
The conciliation process may take up to 15 working days, but can be extended upon the consumer’s request.
No Agreement? What Happens Next? If conciliation proves unsuccessful, consumers are offered the following options: • •
Withdraw complaint; or Submit claim before the Consumer Claims Tribunal.
Once consumers opt to submit a claim before this Tribunal they would need to fill in a claim form and file it with the Tribunal’s Secretary at: 47A, South Street, Valletta. After consumer cases are referred to the Consumer Claims Tribunal, the Office for Consumer Affairs can no longer intervene as this is a separate and independent process.
Consumer Claims Tribunal This Tribunal can hear and determine consumer claims against traders. When consumers suffer pain, distress, anxiety or inconvenience, moral damages not exceeding €500 may be claimed and awarded through this Tribunal. However, if the arbiter considers a claim to be vexatious or frivolous, the defaulting party may be ordered to pay to the other party a penalty of not more than €120. Both parties need to attend the hearing and must present all evidence pertinent to the case. Witnesses could also be summoned for these sittings. Failure to attend the Tribunal’s hearing without a valid justification and without informing the Tribunal’s secretary could result in the case being decided against the missing party. The Tribunal’s decisions are legally binding and if not observed may be enforced like a court judgement. The losing party may appeal the decision within twenty days from decision date. For further information on the Consumer Claims Tribunal, consumers can contact the Tribunal’s secretary on 2122 7070.